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Arcadia's Rowdy Rogues Pay Their Club Dues to Charity--in Blood

February 26, 1987|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

All the Rogues ask of their members is blood, and the more the better.

They offer no other explanation or purpose for their disorganized, raucous club, which defies the rules and sensibilities that traditionally govern service groups.

"Just a fun bunch of guys" is how David Thompson describes the Arcadia- and Monrovia-based men's club. Thompson is its chief, a title the club prefers because, he said, "we're not sophisticated enough to use the word president."

The guys pay their dues in blood, each donating at least a pint a year.

For more than 25 years, they have supplied the Red Cross and blood donor programs at several hospitals, primarily the City of Hope in Duarte and Methodist Hospital in Arcadia. Some Rogues, such as D.C. (Murph) Sturniolo, have been members since the group began in 1963. Many, such as Thompson, donate four to six pints a year.

One--runner Dereck Worrell--raised $5,000 for the City of Hope Blood Transfusion Services through pledges for every mile he ran in last year's Los Angeles Marathon. He completed the 26.2-mile run and has entered the March 1 marathon in hopes of raising even more money for the hospital.

Patrick Hannigan, last year's chief, is one of several who give the maximum amount, a pint of blood every 56 days, because he's a Rogue. "I'm quite sure I wouldn't be doing it otherwise," Hannigan said.

The Rogues are "aptly named," Thompson said. "We're definitely non-bureaucratic. Meetings are very loose, very rowdy, no obligations or dues other than donating a pint of blood every year. People tend to be members for a long time, and that may be because we don't demand much."

The group started when a few friends who met for drinks discovered they were all blood donors. They figured others might be interested in making a club out of their common cause, and founding member Sturniolo offered his restaurant, the Derby in Arcadia, as a meeting place.

Membership--which Thompson said has always included civic-minded people in a variety of occupations--is now about 120. Some Rogues retain membership by paying $50 a year because they are unable to continue donating blood.

Monthly dinner meetings are still held in the Derby, where a wall covered with members' pictures is called "The Rogues' Gallery."

They begin with an "attitude adjustment" period--more commonly known as a happy hour--followed by a guest speaker and jokes. "We vote on the jokes, and the guy gets fined $5 if we don't like his joke," Thompson said. "We've only liked two jokes in the last three years."

Some guest speakers may be put off by the rowdiness, Thompson concedes, "but as a Rogue you can modify your behavior only to a certain extent."

The Rogues have no records of their contributions to blood banks because, Thompson explained, "We don't have a real good documented history of the organization."

But spokesmen for City of Hope and Methodist Hospital say the Rogues have had a profound impact on their blood donor programs.

"They are very, very important to us," said Dr. Irena Sniecinski, director of City of Hope's transfusion service.

At the behest of Thompson and other Rogues who work for Honeywell Inc. in West Covina, the company gave the transfusion service a computer, software and a printer that Sniecinski estimates is worth more than $20,000.

The Rogues developed a computer program to record complex donor data that previously had been kept on file cards. Sniecinski said City of Hope transfused 24,000 units of various blood components in 1986, representing about 6,400 blood collections.

Rogues have spent many hours of their own time programming the computer, as well as continuing to donate blood. Sniecinski called them "very, very nice professional people with warm personalities."

At Methodist Hospital, Community Relations Director Marilyn Morrison said that of the 26,000 gallons of blood collected by the hospital's Satellite Blood Center in the past 12 years, about 10% can be attributed to the Rogues' support.

In addition, Morrison said, the club co-sponsors the hospital's monthly health forums for the public.

"I have great respect for them," she said. "They're a bunch of guys who have the wherewithal to do things, and they do it a little differently. They're just a riot."

Thompson, who shamelessly calls the club "chauvinistic," said that on rare occasions women have been invited to dinner meetings.

When she was a guest last year, Sniecinski said, "the jokes they told were not too bad. I didn't have to cover my ears."

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